NBA postpones Memphis Grizzlies' next 3 games under coronavirus protocols

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Ben Rohrbach
·3 min read
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The Memphis Grizzlies will go at least a week without playing. (Jared C. Tilton/ Getty Images)
The Memphis Grizzlies will go at least a week without playing. (Jared C. Tilton/ Getty Images)

The next three Memphis Grizzlies games are postponed due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.

Without the requisite eight players to field a team over at least the next five days, Memphis will be forced to reschedule Friday’s game with the Portland Trail Blazers and back-to-back games against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and Monday. Wednesday’s game between the Grizzlies and Blazers was also postponed.

In a press release announcing the latest round of postponements, the NBA said, “The games are being postponed due to unavailable players for the Grizzlies and contact tracing for other players on their roster.”

These postponements bring the NBA’s total to 20, more than half of which have come in the past week. Of the 33 positive coronavirus tests returned by players since the start of the season, 27 are from the past two weeks, reaffirming the league’s expectation that January would mark its worst month of the pandemic.

In their official injury report submitted on Wednesday, the Grizzlies listed only center Jonas Valanciunas out for health and safety protocols. The NBA has not released names of those who test positive for COVID-19.

The Washington Wizards, who reportedly count for seven of the NBA’s recent positive tests, will miss a sixth straight game on Friday. They have not played since Jan. 11. Washington’s postponements fall in the wake of games against the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns, all of whom returned positive tests in the ensuing days, raising questions about the on-court spread of the virus.

The NBA has followed Center for Disease Control guidelines that describe “close contact” as exposure within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. The league’s tracking data suggests prolonged exposure does not occur between players during games, but a number of health experts have said in recent weeks that the likelihood of transfer is greater in the heat of a basketball game.

As the number of positive tests and resultant postponements increased, the NBA negotiated an addendum to its health and safety protocols that essentially quarantined players in their homes or hotel rooms for reasons other than team-related activities. The NBA also reportedly issued a memo on Wednesday requiring teams to place security at mid-court to prevent postgame handshakes and hugs between players.

However, the NBA is no longer in a bubble environment. It cannot restrict a player’s family from potential communal exposure, so the league is no less vulnerable to the virus than the general public. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 exceeded 400,000 this week. Thankfully, no players have reported grave symptoms.

Still, Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl Anthony-Towns’ announcement last week that he had tested positive for a virus that claimed the lives of his mother and six more relatives was a reminder of the danger the league faces forging ahead. This is to say nothing of the uncertain longterm effects from the disease.

The NBA entered prepared for postponements, setting a second-half schedule release prior to March 11, but the mounting number of missed games raises further questions about the health and safety of players in a further condensed schedule. Currently, a 72-game regular season is scheduled to end on May 16.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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